Writers who want to wax poetic about the environment — along with those who need a platform for environmental justice — may get their chance next year.
Paperbark Magazine, a new environmental humanities publication, is welcoming submissions from the community this November at their Facebook page. The magazine is three years in the making. A staff of 12 has worked to establish the business model and template for the publication, but the identity of Paperbark is a work in progress, something that will form in response to the art and writing they receive.
In preparation for their launch, Earth Day 2018, the editors have begun a weekly meeting called Hearts in Action. This is a space for creative contemplation about climate change and sustainability. They group meets Mondays at 4 p.m. at the Science Engineering Library on the UMass campus.
“At our first session, local artist and educator Dee Boyle-Clapp brought us through a flag-making art project, and we all had a chance to write and reflect around what our group’s purpose would be,” said Max Dilthey, managing editor and a Ph.D candidate at UMass’ regional planning program.
He and editor-in-chief Lauren de la Parra came on board after sustainability sciences student Sumedha Rao graduated and Craig Nicholson, the former head of that department, proposed the idea of Paperbark.
“Sumedha and Craig felt strongly that the burgeoning ethos of sustainability in the Pioneer Valley, and its interconnections with the creativity of the human spirit, needed to be harnessed and shared in a way that would support and enrich the communities that inspired it,” said de la Parra, also a student of sustainability science and regional planning.
De la Parra found her voice in the environmental humanities after spending time at Sirius Ecovillage, in their permaculture garden.
Permaculture, a community-oriented practice of planting purposefully, with complementary pairings of vegetation, proves to be much less water intensive than traditional gardening and eliminates the need for pesticides. At UMass, the gardens at Franklin and now at Berkshire Dining Commons have been a source of inspiration and change, earning the campus much respect nationally for its student-led foray into sustainable living, the first in the country.
“Often, it can feel demoralizing to care deeply and devote time and energy to developing a personal ethic of environmental responsibility, only to walk outside and find that many people do not share your convictions,” said de la Parra. “That’s why Paperbark and resources like Paperbark are so important: They remind people that they are not alone, invite them to engage, encourage their explorations, and connect them to the network of people who not only think about the environment, but are committed to living differently.”
There are other environmental humanities magazines out there, but Dilthey hopes Paperbark’s voice will be something special and unique.
“We’re still discovering what that voice will be as we move towards our first issue,” said Dilthey, who looks forward to reading submissions from the community.
“The more people get public about their views, the more others will feel the culture shifting, and the more people who are not sure about their place in the bigger picture will feel empowered to speak up,” said de la Parra.
One thing the editors hope is that the magazine will be an outlet for those experiencing environmental injustice, something that most people actually experience but don’t realize or perhaps ignore.
“Climate has become a polarized issue in this country, as have so many things,” said de la Parra. “I would like to see more consensus about the human drivers of climate change in the political sphere, of course But I would also like to hear conversations about compromise, about moving forward together for a common purpose that is rooted in the realization that fundamentally, we are animals on a planet that allows us to live and breathe every day, and that climate change is an existential threat, not a hoax or an insidious opportunity.”
Madleine Charney, the sustainabilities librarian at UMass, saw early on the potential for Paperbark to broaden the discourse on sustainability when she began a Talking Truth series of programs on climate, which began last year and continues this fall at the W.E.B. Du Bois Library.
“We’re working with the library to make sure our magazine is available to those who can’t afford a subscription, especially students and educators, so that nobody is left out of our community,” said Dilthey.
The magazine will release annually with some 120 pages, with a launch party in the works. Until then, de la Parra invites the community to join Hearts in Action. The editors have also come up with a recommended reading list, available at their Facebook page.
“Paperbark will be a wonderful coalescence of generations, legacies, disciplines, experiences, and genres,” said de la Parra, who partners with students and educators across disciplines bridging the natural sciences and the arts.
“What makes the humanities important in their own right is their acknowledgment of the lens of human experience, the messiness of subjectivity, and the incredibly generative potential that lies within,” said de la Parra.
It is creativity that is the essential ingredient for resilience, say the editors. The changes we need won’t be found in the places we’ve already looked, and so it is in this spirit that Paperbark invites the public to imagine, create and contribute.